Ever flicked through the pages of an Asian recipe book and felt inspired to cook something a little less ordinary than your usual fare, only to discover that the recipe requires unfamiliar pots, pans, dishes, and utensils? It’s not an easy problem to solve in an instant, but it is possible if you’re willing to wait a little while for a delivery… or travel!
The online world of Asian kitchenware
There are countless websites selling cookery items ranging from thick bamboo chopping boards to “karahis” (Indian pans made of carbon steel, which means they heat up quickly). British and American entrepreneurs running sites like importfood.com, templeofthai.com, and theasiancookshop.co.uk source items that are easily found in Asian countries and make them available to Western shoppers (whilst no doubt making a tidy profit in the process!).
Buying online and having your order sent in the post can be cost-effective. It’s exciting, too, to receive such a package through the mail. But if you have the time and money for a trip to one of the countries where these items are made and used on a day-to-day basis, it’s definitely worth buying at source – and soaking up the experience!
- What to buy: If you’re making traditional Thai dishes, then you’ll want to get your hands on some of the specialist equipment used for both making and serving it. Keep an eye out for soup serving bowls (designed for multi-person use and for keeping the soup hot!), clay pots, “khanom krok” pans, rice steamers (they produce all types – basket, aluminium and electric!), beautiful wicker, metal, and ceramic bowls, tea sets, and tiffins (lunchboxes).
- Where to buy it: You’ll find many of the items listed above (and a whole lot more!) at the local markets wherever you happen to be, but you’ll find the greatest selection at Bangkok’s Chaktuchak market (sometimes written as Jatuchak), not far from the Mo Chit stop on the Sky train. But remember, it’s only open on weekends – and it’s so big, you might need the entire weekend to get around it!
- Don’t forget to experience… If you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a trip to the beach resort of Patong, on the west coast of Phuket Island. There, you’ll find a warehouse store called Supercheap, where locals source everything they need for their street food stalls/kitchens. But beware: this place is enormous and chaotic!!
- What to buy: Along with anything that catches your eye (and there’ll be a lot – India’s kitchenware is often practical and beautiful), you might want to consider buying some of the “essential” kitchen items this Indian blogger has found to be much more expensive in her new home country, America.
- Where to buy it: You don’t have to travel far from Delhi airport to find a tonne of markets, where you can buy all the kitchenware your heart desires. For the biggest wholesale markets, head to Khari Baoli, where you’ll find the Sadar Bazar, or Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi.
- Don’t forget to experience… A good haggle! Whether you’re shopping at a market or a store, remember to negotiate a good price with the seller, who’ll be expecting you to do so. But arm yourself with these bargaining tips before jumping into the deep end, because, as you might expect, as a tourist, you’ll automatically start with a higher price than a local person would!
- What to buy: There’s very little you can’t buy in Singapore, where a predominantly wealthy population, along with tourism and a strong export economy, underpin the success of numerous kitchenware stores. So if you’re looking for the latest gizmo for slicing and dicing and want to choose from an entire range rather than being limited to just one or two brands, this is the place to go.
- Where to buy it: You’ll buy yourself a different kind of shopping experience in Singapore, to the ones you can have in Thailand and India. Ranked by Forbes as Asia’s most influential city (and 4th in the world), Singapore is a “polished” island with a strong economy. As such, it boasts a high number of designer stores, including some very well-stocked kitchenware shops. Before planning a trip, it’s definitely worth taking a look at The Sassy Mama’s Guide to the Top 10 Kitchenware Shops in Singapore, for up-to-date and detailed information.
- Don’t forget to experience… Cookery classes! In several shops selling kitchen equipment, you’ll find experienced chefs not just demonstrating how to use the items on sale, but teaching customers the best ways of using them. As one company proudly states on its website, “At Phoon Huat, we believe in more than just selling quality baking items at very competitive prices. We aim to provide an enriching retail experience that will broaden your baking horizon.”